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Culture, environment and community came together to mark a significant occasion for the Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC) and Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners, as a program of environmental watering at The Ranch Billabong in Dimboola began on the 14 December 2018.

The Ranch Billabong area has been home to many generations of Wotjobaluk people, long before European settlement and increasingly after Ebenezer Mission at Antwerp closed. The cultural connection to the site remains and plans for its management are included in the Growing What is Good Country Plan, Voices of the Wotjobaluk Nations.

Supported by Wimmera CMA and the VEWH, the environmental watering involves pumping up to 20 megalitres from the Wimmera River into the billabong.

Ranch Billabong

At Ranch Billabong for the first environmental watering, by Greg Fletcher, Wimmera CMA 

From an environmental perspective the intent is to restore native plant and animal habitats, control invasive weeds and improve amenity. Ongoing monitoring will then inform future management of the site.

Culturally the aim is to preserve a place of cultural significance. One example is increasing and improving the abundance of 'Old Man Weed', also known as Sneezeweed. This native wetland plant is traditionally important to the Wotjobaluk Peoples for medicinal purposes.

"It is great to be involved in something that is so culturally significant as well as providing environmental outcomes," said Beth Ashworth, Co-Executive Officer of the VEWH.

"A focus of the VEWH is to increase involvement of Traditional Owners in environmental watering, and this is one of many opportunities to progress that vision.

"Environmental watering doesn't stop with any one agency – it is a multi-partner commitment that relies on the collaboration and goodwill of multiple agencies, Traditional Owners and local communities", said Beth.

The four VEWH Commissioners visited the site in November 2018 on a western region tour to discuss strategic matters and ways to collaborate with partners, including the BGLC.

The Wimmera CMA have been working with the BGLC and Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners to better understand how management of water for the environment can better support Aboriginal aspirations, particularly around caring for Country and protecting important places such as Ranch Billabong.